IT is ten years since the book was published, and I wish I had read it ten years ago. ‘Bodos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There’ by David Brooks, 2000, has made me reassess my understanding of the Australian Greens and what their constituents really value.
While Brook’s book is based on an assessment of the new elite in the US, it is apparent from the work of Australian demographer, John Black, that the new political force in Australian politics is identical in key ways. Importantly, those who vote for the Australian Green are not only the richest voters in Australia but they also have a significant interest in the success of the mining industry.
Mr Black was interviewed by Paul Comrie-Thomson on Counterpoint earlier in the year:
John Black: That’s right, the National Party is traditionally run by wealthy people who represent poor people, and the Greens tends to be run by lower income people representing rich people but who seem to have a view that their constituency is decidedly bolshy in terms of economic policy when in fact there’s absolutely no evidence of that at all, and in fact the evidence is to the contrary.
Paul Comrie-Thomson: So in fact if green voters see green political parties threatening their income stream, they’ll dump them. Is that how you see it?
John Black: In a New York second. This is not rocket science. People vote politically as consumers, and I fall back on my old Marxist historians for that little piece of wisdom. People do not vote to lose money, that’s a case in point. Your green voter now has shares, your green voter now doesn’t have children. Because they don’t have children they have money, they have investment homes, they have shares. The simple correlations between ownership of investments, including shares, and the top income group was +0.94. You don’t get any stronger than that. I mean, share ownership is clustered in then top quartile, green votes are clustered in the top quartile. Green voters are born overseas, they’re the kind of people who were getting $100,000+ in WA on the old AWAs. They were into them with their ears back. These are rich, cosmopolitan, internationally qualified people.
According to David Brooks writing about Bobos in the US: This new elite has been subtly influenced by the counterculture of the sixties and the opportunities provided by information technology. The most successful and most influential individuals are highly educated with one foot in the bohemian world of creativity and another in the bourgeois realm of ambition and world success.
A big tension for them, and source of much anxiety, is how to reconcile worldly success with inner virtue. According to Brooks this is achieved by creating a way of living that that lets you be an affluent success and at the same time a free-spirit rebel. Founding design firms, they find a way to be an artist and still qualify for stock options. They incorporate Rolling Stones anthems into their marketing campaigns. They’ve reconciled the antiestablishment style with the corporate imperative.